Wednesday, 21 July 2021 18:40

Come get up close with a corpse (flower) at UTK

KnoxNews: Welcome to Rocky Top, Rotty Top!

A seldom-seen corpse flower is about to burst forth in bloom following a 20-year sleep — presumably not in a casket and not at the Body Farm — at the Hesler Biology Building at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

A previous faculty member got the plant two decades ago, but this is its first blooming cycle, according to the News Sentinel. It has been nursed along by current greenhouse director Jeff Martin — in someone else’s office, of course. The plant only blooms about every 10 years, if not more infrequently.

Members of the public are invited to come partake of the odor and revel in sheer stank in the next several days. 

“A 2010 study by Japanese researchers attributed the plant’s smell to a combination of chemicals that smell like cheese, sweat, garlic, decaying meat, rotten eggs and more,” according to the News Sentinel.

But it’s not just about the smell: The plant produces the world’s largest flower and is endangered in the wild. Pollen from this corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum — you can suss out the literal definition yourself) may be used to pollinate other endangered corpse flowers, which are native to Southeast Asia. 

The odor is an evolutionary pollination mechanism to attract flies and other insects that are attracted to the smell of rotting flesh.